Tag Archives: let’s get drunk

Montezuma, Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls, and Wine

Taughannock Falls, Ulysses NY

We took a three day weekend and turned an overnight trip to central New York into a mini tour. You can fit an amazing amount into a couple of days if you have the right guide.

Our first stop was the visitor center at the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. This is a 50,000 acre wetlands complex and I think a model of the kinds of conservation efforts that can be achieved with the right cooperation. It’s managed in concert by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Audubon New York and other conservation groups, and private landowners and corporations. Wetlands are simultaneously very fragile and very important ecosystems, and this cooperation has allowed a large area to be carved out, protecting many threatened species including the Bald Eagle. We were lucky enough to not only catch sight of an adult baldy (it’s okay to call them that, they’re comfortable with their hair loss), but also a juvenile preening in a tree along the self-guided driving tour. I wasn’t able to get any photos, or more specifically not any good ones, but I did get these Tree Swallows popping in and out of the nest boxes near the center.

Tree Swallow

There were some Purple Martins roosting near the center too, and we saw (what we’re pretty sure was) an Osprey carrying a fish away to a safe place for a sushi picnic. Plenty of other birds were on the driving tour, some herons, song sparrows, and ever-present Red Winged Blackbirds. If you want to view or especially photograph some birds in their wetland habitat a car makes an excellent blind, I highly recommend driving the short loop, just don’t try to get out of your car. The center is located in Seneca Falls on Routes 5/20E, and is open April – November; no normal hours are held in the winter but you can still visit and may be able to schedule some with a volunteer or two if you call ahead. More information at the Friends of Montezuma website.

Goose Watch Winery, Romulus NY

We took a drive along Cayuga Lake, one of the easternmost and largest of the Finger Lakes, and stopped at Goose Watch Winery for a tasting. I don’t have anything to compare them to but we had a blast, I definitely recommend giving them a shot. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly, able to give you some hints on what to try if you already know what you like, and $2 gives you a sample of 8 wines of your choice. The whites and a rosé we tried were all excellent, the reds I was not as impressed with but it was my fault for getting two very sweet examples, we were thinking of getting some gifts. Halfway through, a bus pulled up with what looked like cast of Jersey Shore times twenty, thankfully Goose Watch has a separate upstairs room for groups, seems like they’re very accommodating.

Goose Watch Winery, Romulus NY

A drive south along the lake brought us to Taughannock Falls, no I’m not sure how to pronounce that really. There are multiple parking lots on Route 89 if you want to hike the falls, I suggest skipping the paid one that includes a beach and parking in the free lot just down the road, the walk to the trail is not much further. It’s a great easy walk, well-maintained and no grade to speak of, or you can take a risk and walk along and in the stream itself. Geologically there’s a lot going on, glacial action and more modern erosion is clearly evident along the gorge and stream, and the large amounts of shale on the slopes, combined with seasonal hydrological action, leaves very clear, wide swaths of rock slides. The falls themselves plunge 215 total feet in multiple stages, below is the 15 foot Lower Falls that greets you at the start of the trail.

Taughannock Falls, Ulysses NY

For being heavily visited (multiple school bus loads of kids crossed our path, not to mention families and older teenagers who could have used better chaperoning cooling off in the water), there’s a surprising amount of wildlife to see if you look closely enough. The wildflowers were in bloom when we were there, bringing with them tiny pollinators. Unfortunately I’m terrible at identifying flowers. I was fortunate enough to get a shot of this Little Wood Satyr butterfly, the thunk of the shutter scaring it off again:

Little Wood Satyr, Taughannock Falls

and a brilliantly metallic Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.

Tiger Beetle, Taughannock Falls

Heavily wooded streams like this hold a great diversity of life, turn over almost any rock and you might find some salamanders or, particularly in spring, stonefly larvae among other insects, which attract fisher spiders (don’t click if you’re arachnophobic at all), who use vibrations in the water to locate prey. Cliff swallows prey on all of the above, swooping down toward the water to catch insects in midair. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Taughannock Falls, Ulysses NY Taughannock Falls, Ulysses NY

There’s an overlook of the main falls that’s not to be missed, easy to drive and park to, great spot for a quick lunch. We took our picnic back near the main parking area, where looking south there’s an excellent view of the coal-fired AES Cayuga Power Station.

AES Cayuga Power Station

Lovely scenery, no? I can’t get too indignant, of course I understand that many of the things I enjoy (like that wine) are going to require some electricity and it has to come from somewhere. It’s just disheartening to see a coal plant, one of the major harmful environmental contributors, right from the picnic area of a park where the immediate effects of that pollution (hello acid rain) is clearly evident. Anyway, this photo is really just an excuse to show an example from a 600-1000mm lens I recently picked up, which is absolutely ridiculous. The tree swallow photo way up there was taken with it too.

That was the end of our adventure, which is good because this post is long enough already. We had a wonderful dinner at Laura’s parents that was made largely from food from their garden and I used the late afternoon sun as a chance to do some more closeup work in said garden.

Peony and Ant Garlic scapes

Look, it’s my blog, I can indulge myself here. More on how I took those near-macro shots in another post. Let’s see, how about a sideshow of photos from the day? We can do that. Enjoy.

2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Castle

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival began 114 years ago as a one day event in this small village in the Adirondacks, and is now a ten-day extravaganza of parades, games, music, the famous ice castle, and lots and lots of snow.

Every year has a theme, and for 2011 is was “medieval times”. The parade included princesses, knights on horseback, witches, dragons, and yes, a Trojan rabbit. I accompanied some friends in a group calling themselves The Gimps, a crowd favorite, who of course dressed as sock monkeys. Were there sock monkeys in the dark ages? Let’s say probably.

2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

This year’s Carnival ran from February 4 through the 13th, bookended by the two parades and fireworks shows. We visited at the tail end, which is probably the best end since everyone is desperate to enjoy what’s left of this huge party. It’s really pretty crazy; hundreds of people descend on this three square mile village, and I’d say at least three square miles of alcohol are consumed. I have to give a shout out to the Saranac Lake police and fire departments, who do a great job of keeping things orderly and safe. I’m sure that’s no easy job, and they handle it well.

2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Most of my photos are of the parade itself; we headed up early Saturday morning to catch that, and I followed the Gimps to a few watering holes before we finished up the party at the very hospitable Hotel Saranac. So, I missed most of the other festivities, but you can see more from last year’s event. I did get a chance to spend some time at the ice castle at night, which is gorgeously lit as you can see at the top.

A little shop talk: I took most of the parade photos with a 50mm lens, which is a dicey proposal. A general purpose zoom is really ideal unless you have a lot of freedom to move around, which I didn’t; step away from the edge of the roped off street and you won’t get back in. I do have a 19-35mm zoom that I used for the 2011 Santa Speedo Sprint but that wouldn’t quite give me enough reach here. So, I’m stuck in one place at one focal length, and that makes it a challenge to get a variety of shots from individual closeups to wider views of the groups in the parade. I think I did a good job, but I had a secret weapon: I stood next to a kid. Paraders coming up to give him candy gave me great opportunities for closer head and body shots. Thanks, kid!

If you can make it, and especially if you can find a place to stay (try booking now but even that’s a little late), you should check out the Carnival in 2012. You definitely won’t be disappointed, and during a time when it can be a little hard to find outdoor things to do if you don’t ski, it’s a great little escape. See you next year!

2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival 2011 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

There’s a slideshow with more photos, and you can check out the official Winter Carnival site.

2010 Santa Speedo Sprint

Santa Speedo Sprint 2010

December 11, 2010 marked the 5th annual Santa Speedo Sprint, sponsored by the Albany Society for the Advancement of Philanthropy to benefit the Albany Damien Center. In 2009 ASAP helped raise over $15,000 to support individuals and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Santa Speedo Sprint 2010

This year’s Santa Speedo Sprint was no different than in the past, with the possible exception of community support and costume design. Those were yet awesomer than last year. I was unfortunately unable to capture everything, but rest assured that all was on full display, from scantily clad elves to Santa and his reindeer to chickens and more.

Santa Speedo Sprint 2010

This year’s event was clearly a success; when I checked during registration, ASAP had already confirmed more than $7,500 in pledges, and the final count is yet to be tallied. A big thank you also goes out to Albany’s finest who helped secure the street for the run and very patiently monitored the event. With their help, everything went off without a hitch. Last I heard this year’s total was over $20,000 already. Good work, folks!

A special apology goes out to the woman I totally walked into. I really thought I cracked her a good one on the head with my chin, but it turns out I’m no Bruce Campbell even if we share some initials. She took it in stride, and it’s to be expected when there are that many people and photographers in the street, I got my boots stepped on my fair share as well.

As usual, the slideshow has plenty more photos, and don’t forget to check out Seb’s shots (don’t miss his video), and Albany Tim has some too. Some good stuff from the folks at All Over Albany as well. Here is possibly the awesomest series of the day, one sprinter took photos of photographers during the race — that’s him down there right after shooting me. And another quality flickr set from MikeCNY. If you have photos from the event, let me know, I’d love to add more links.

Elsewhere:
DelSo
Kevin Marshall
Citizen One

Santa Speedo Sprint 2010 Santa Speedo Sprint 2010 Santa Speedo Sprint 2010
Santa Speedo Sprint 2010 Santa Speedo Sprint 2010

Related Posts:
2009 Santa Speedo Sprint and more from 2009
Northeast Warrior Dash

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2010

Stayed in town to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year. Had a small group, not big enough for a turkey, so I chose to roast my favorite bird: duck. That’s it there, just out of the oven. I keep it fairly simple; stuff with some onion, lemon, garlic, and celery greens, steam for 45 minutes, salt the skin and then roast. I think this was the best I’ve done yet, And I even managed to do a half decent job carving the breast.

I’d have a few more photos but I was much busier cooking than I was shooting.

Thanksgiving 2010

The final menu:
Roast duck
Tuna quiche
Mashed rutabaga
Pureed potatoes
Roasted carrots and parsnips with brown sugar glaze
Roasted squash with maple syrup glaze
Tequila lime cranberry sauce
Fresh greens & tomato salad
Stove Top Stuffing¹
Gravy (the real kind)
Pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream

It was a busy five hours in the kitchen but it all came together. Not listed: the pound of butter we used.

Thanksgiving 2010

Those are the potatoes ready to be pureed. I like to rice them, because it lets me convince other people to buy a bizarre kitchen tool. Also, you can make some pretty unappetizing comparisons during the process. Or you can call it the Potato Fun Factory, your choice.

I would have liked to source more of the food locally/sustainably/organic, but that just wasn’t happening on this scale this year. The rutabaga, salad greens, pumpkin, eggs (for the pie), and squash were local, and the squash was even grown in Center Square. The carrots came from Laura’s family near Syracuse, so that’s sort of local, and the tomatoes were organic. I guess with more lead time I could have gotten a local duck, but if anyone has any leads on that or cranberries I’d love to hear it. I make cranberry sauce almost weekly as long as they’re available, and my prostate loves me for it. Because of the antioxidants, you see.

Thanksgiving 2010 Thanksgiving 2010

We even went all the way and made duck stock from the carcass while playing with XBox Kinect. I do not advise cranking dat Soulja Boy after a full Thanksgiving dinner and several glasses of wine.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving too.

¹I like to cook as much from scratch as possible but no American Thanksgiving is complete without Stove Top.

Larkfest 2010

Larkfest 2010

Larkfest is billed as the largest single-day street festival in New York, and you know, I just might buy that. The official turnout this year was 70,000, down slightly from last year, but that’s not a bad thing. The Lark Street BID lined up a full roster of local bands this time, probably in response to the absolutely insane crowd that turned up at the Lark & Washington stage to see Moby in 2009. If that was the plan, it worked; even though attendance was close to the same, the crowds were nowhere near as thick.

Sebastien covered most of the details so I’ll try to keep this short and let you enjoy the photos. I showed up early in the morning and was spent by about 2:00pm, but here’s what I caught:

Larkfest 2010

Charlie Watts Riot. These guys were absolutely solid, came to rock, and did it well. They were crowdpleasers and really looked like they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience was. Their banner had a logo of a guitarist in mid-leap, and while we were taking photos Seb and I looked at each other thinking, well I don’t think we’ll see that. Surprise! Yeah, they jump around. A lot. Tons of energy, it was great to watch them.

Larkfest 2010

The Ill Funk Ensemble. True to their name, they had a funk/soul set that was pretty ill. The crowd loved these guys, especially the kids. The singer is gifted, no way could I ever belt it out like that, and the bass player has a great voice used in a few talkovers. This isn’t my usual style of music but they entertained me, good job.

Larkfest 2010

Tom McWatters and the Philo Beddo Band. I have to admit I didn’t stick around for these guys much, but that was just because by the time they started playing, the event really started to get into full swing. They seemed to have a good indie rock mix, and I dig the sunglasses.

Larkfest 2010

Rich Ortiz. This guy was a pleasant surprise; even if he didn’t rock I’d give him huge credit for being on the main stage as a one-man act. But he does rock, so he gets extra props; the dude sings, plays guitar, and to top it off runs a drum machine with his feet (actually that’s not right, see the comments). He really seemed to pour everything he had into it and I can’t speak for everyone else but I felt it.

Larkfest 2010

Sirsy. One of the best-known and most divisive acts in the area. Most people who’ve heard of Sirsy aren’t neutral; you either love them or you don’t. While Rich Libutti with his adorable little goatee there on guitar is no slouch, Melanie Krahmer is really the centerpiece of this two-person act, singing and drumming standing up. They had a formidable legion of fans crowding the stage by the time they got started, and definitely made every one of them happy.

Larkfest 2010

There was plenty else to see, it’s hard to really give a sense of the event in a couple dozen photos. It’s about more than the music; several blocks in the heart of Albany are closed to traffic and vendors set up tents, performers entertain (or is that vice-versa?), families gather, young adults get plastered… it’s all a great time. Most of all, it’s a celebration of our weird little city, an acknowledgment that hey, we’re more than just the seat of the state government, we do have some culture here. What those who drive in from the suburbs don’t understand is that these yearly festivals — Tulip Fest, Art on Lark, Larkfest — are only different than the norm in scale. All of that live music, the art, the food and drink, the colorful characters, that’s all here on every other day of the year too. And we can walk to it, we live with it, we have it at our doorstep. That’s not to say there aren’t any tradeoffs, but I can live with drowning out the noise with a fan at night if I can have all of this at my fingertips.

Larkfest 2010

About the photos. For this event I took along only the Canon 100mm f/2 and 50mm f/1.8 for the DSLR. This kept my bag super light; the 100mm weighs only a pound, and the 50mm weighs less than my wallet (possibly because I bought the 100mm). Most of the shots you see are with the 100mm, even without being able to zoom the range was perfect for getting close to the stage for tight shots (though having the 21MP of the 5DMkII to crop closer would be nice) but still not so long that I couldn’t stand back and get more in the frame, and it’s great for isolating scenes especially when there’s not a lot of time to carefully compose a shot:

Larkfest 2010

Plus, the 100mm f/2 is amazingly sharp (you can click through any photo to flickr and view larger sizes) and renders color and contrast really well (though I have complaints about chromatic aberration; it’s no L lens, but then it doesn’t carry an L pricetag). I brought along a point & shoot for quick wide shots just in case, but I ended up not using it too much. What really killed me here were the tents set up over the stages. In one way, they helped by diffusing the harsh midday sunlight and eliminating nasty reflections off of metal mics, guitar strings, etc. But they also shaded the performers, making the dynamic range between them and any clear sky you might get in the frame so wide that it’s impossible to cleanly expose both. Ideally, I’d have some fill flash for this. I tried adding exposure compensation, spot metering, manually setting exposure; in the end, I threw away a lot of photos, and had to heavily process most of the ones you see.

I can’t complain much, though; that was only an issue because we had absolutely gorgeous weather. Only a few clouds in the sky, not a drop of rain. I left the house in jeans and a 3/4 sleeve shirt because it had been chilly the night before, and was sweating that mistake by 11:00. We must be doing something right down here, because whoever’s controlling the weather has given us several years in a row of beautiful days for our send of summer bash.

I highly recommend checking out the slideshow on this one, I did some custom arranging for your viewing pleasure. All Over Albany has a great roundup of the day with a few extra photosets and Nippertown also has a few wrapups. Were you there? Share your own story, too. See you next year!

Related Posts:
Larkfest 2009

More Rhubarb Vokda Recipes

I’m liking the rhubarb vodka more than I expected. Two more good uses I found:

Rhubarb & Orange
In rocks/DOF glass combine:
2 oz. rhubarb vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
ice to fill
Stir, garnish with an orange slice. Or not. The sweetness of triple sec is just enough to cut the sour rhubarb, and the citrus flavor plays well.

Rhubarb Lemonade
Make lemonade:
4 parts fresh lemon juice
4 parts water
1 part simple syrup
This makes a still fairly tart lemonade, you can adjust as needed. Yes, squeeze lemons for this. Simple syrup is key here, it avoids having any gritty sugar at the bottom of your glass. It’s aptly named, combine two parts sugar with one part water, bring to a boil briefly and let cool. This turns it into a very mixable syrup and breaks the disaccharide sucrose into monosaccharised glucose and fructose — a fancy way of saying it tastes sweeter. It’ll keep in the fridge for several weeks, I like to fill a squeezebottle.
In a highball/pint glass combine:
ice to fill
2 oz rhubarb vodka
lemonade to fill
Stir, drink, and make yourself another one because you’ll suck this down in about twenty seconds. This is the best use of the rhubarb infused vodka I’ve found yet.

Rhubarb Infused Vodka

CRW_2702

With the return of the regular season of Top Chef, Wednesday nights are Family Dinner nights in the house again. The roommates and a few friends get together, pull out a nice meal, and enjoy the show. Because I have a horrible sense of timing, I usually finish cooking whatever I’m making halfway through the episode. But I got one thing out of the way plenty early this time.

Two weeks before, I took some of the fresh rhubarb from Memorial Day and put it in two bottles with a little over a liter of vodka. Because it’s (supposed to be) odorless and flavorless¹, vodka is a great base if you want to experiment with tossing your own custom flavors into some cocktails. Vodka tends to soak up the flavors of almost anything you put in it, and I really mean almost anything. Try pennies if you dare (you’ll have clean pennies). This is a lot like the way college students use alcohol as a base for mixed drinks to get drunk without ever having to actually taste alcohol, and by “a lot like” I mean “exactly the opposite of”.

I used Sobieski because it’s a good combination of neutral flavor and low price for a handle, and I was thinking of Maddie and saw a Polish brand. I’ve used Smirnoff in the past to good effect too; some vodkas have slight flavors despite how they’re billed, the most common being pepper which we definitely want to stay away from. These are both grain vodkas (Smirnoff, corn; Sobieski, rye), and I feel that the potato or other non-grain based vodkas are more likely to have their own unsuitable flavors. But overall, don’t go too cheap (that stuff is just gross) or too expensive (a waste of money) and you’ll be okay.

All you need are some clean contains and some time. How long you steep is up to you, but I like to take things slow, so I set a baseline of two weeks or so and taste after one week. In this case I cut up plenty of rhubarb to really make sure the flavor got in there — the more surface area of your materials, the more and faster the flavors will infuse. After a week the vodka had definitely mellowed out, it was smooth and not as fiery, but not watery and still with a kick. The picture above is at two weeks; not only was the rhubarb favor very apparent, but after filtering through a coffee filter the vodka was left with a very light, rosy pink tinge. It was either rhubarb vodka or a flat Bartles & Jaymes.

For the first try I whipped up a quick strawberry rhubarb cocktail. It took a second try but as a simple refresher it worked well.

In a rocks/DOF glass:
– One medium strawberry, muddled
– Two ounces rhubarb infused vodka
– 1/4 ounce simple syrup
– ice and club soda to fill

If you want something a little classier looking, shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. You can try shaking the soda too but I warned you. There are going to be some strawberry chunks either way, so deal. If you have any other ideas for rhubarb infused vodka uses, send them my way; I’ll try them out and report back, after I wake up, figure out where I am, and get home.

¹see, some people use the word tasteless here, which totally means something else, though in some situations I think applies.

² I know there was no superscript two above, I just want to point out that the photo was taken pretty hastily with direct handheld flash. Handholding the flash instead of keeping it on the hotshoe gives you a chance to make the lighting a little more dynamic, but if you’re rushed like me you’ll probably have some weird camera tilt and overpower the ambient light a bit. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling would have been a good idea here; thankfully, shooting in RAW gives a lot of leeway and as long as you don’t go too under/overboard, flash gives pretty predictable results.